Turkish army gets revamped indigenous main battle tank for trials
Türkiye’s army has received what officials dubb one of the most modern main battle tanks in the world that will undergo testing in the period ahead before the country launches its mass production and deliveries.
Two long-anticipated domestically built Altay tanks were delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on Sunday in a ceremony led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who praised Türkiye’s current capability of meeting almost all of its land vehicle needs with domestic resources.
The final trials of the Altay tank are expected to be completed within 2024. Its mass production will be launched in 2025, and South Korean-made power packs will power the first tanks.
The military vehicle manufacturer BMC plans to replace South Korean engines with a domestically developed version in 2026. Türkiye is developing a 1,500-horsepower engine, BATU, to power various armored vehicles, including the Altay.
The new tank has undergone significant overhauls since its first design in the 2000s, according to Erdoğan, who stressed multiple obstacles and challenges faced in developing and manufacturing the vehicle.
“Our new Altay tank has very different and superior capabilities from the prototype that was first put forward 10 years ago,” Erdoğan told the delivery ceremony in the northwestern Sakarya province.
“Like our other defense projects, we have faced many difficulties in the development process of the Altay tank. Our project was tried to be blocked,” he added.
The next-generation battle tank’s prototype was initially powered by a 1,500 horsepower diesel engine from Germany’s MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH before the production and supply came to a halt following Berlin’s decision to limit arms exports to Türkiye, a longtime NATO ally.
The embargo followed Türkiye’s counterterrorism operation in northern Syria that targeted both Daesh terrorists and the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian branch, the YPG.
Ankara has long criticized European states, including Germany, for not taking serious measures against the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States and the European Union.
“They wanted to sabotage the process with informal and open embargoes. Despite all the attacks we have been subjected to, we have not been intimidated, we have not given up, we have not taken a step back,” Erdoğan said.
Instead of being content with what they had, Erdoğan said, “We worked hard to produce a better, more modern one, compatible with the technology of tomorrow, not today.”
Among the new capabilities added to the new Altay tank are an active protection system, improved armor system, renewed fire control system, renewed vehicle control system, concentrated power group, localized systems (speed reduction, gunner’s second-degree sight system, track and turret ring gear), fuel and hydraulic pumps, mobile concealment net, periscope and rotor.
“We will start mass production of our tanks immediately after our army completes the tests,” Erdoğan said. “Once the BATU developed by BMC Power is ready, we will hopefully continue to take the new Altay into the inventory with our domestic engine.”
The 12-cylinder, V-type, water-cooled, turbo diesel engine will produce 4,600 nanometers of torque.
Eight units of Altay tanks are planned to be delivered a month as part of the initial batch of 100 units, BMC Defense General Manager Mehmet Karaaslan said in late October. The Altay contract eventually involves the production of 1,000 tanks.
BMC won the Altay contract in 2018. It involves the production of an initial batch of 250 units, life-cycle logistical support and the establishment and operation by the contractor of a tank systems technology center.
Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) chief Ismail Demir on Sunday said revamps made over the years have made the current version of Altay one of the most modern tanks in the world.
“As someone who knows and has experienced most of the processes that Altay has gone through, I can safely say that this tank is one of the most modern tanks in the world,” Demir said.
“Many subsystems whose procurement from abroad has been challenging have been localized, updated technologies and innovations have been added to increase the combat capability of our tank,” he stressed.
Altay boasts a firing range of 8 kilometers (4.97 miles). With a crew of four (tank commander, gunner, loader and driver), it weighs 65 tons. It is designed with superior maneuverability thanks to its suspension system. Altay also features weapons such as a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and defense giant Aselsan-made Stabilized Advanced Remote Weapon Platform (SARP).
Thanks to the new computer technology, the fire control system is stated to be superior to standard tanks. Furthermore, the Altay will also boast the domestic Active Protection System (AKKOR) developed by Aselsan, one of the vital tank protection systems. In addition to tank armor, active protection systems are important against anti-tank weapons.
AKKOR creates a full 360-degree protection shield and can detect incoming rocket or anti-tank missiles quickly with its high-tech radar. Then, with the help of the sensors on it, the physical destruction ammunition to be directed can explode when it is closest to the approaching anti-tank threat and neutralize it.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan cited the Turkish defense industry’s profound transformation over the last two decades, stressing that they significantly reduced external dependency.
He highlighted Türkiye’s goal to be “fully independent in the defense industry.”
“We have reduced the foreign dependency in the defense industry from around 80% to some 20% in such a short time as 20 years. The number of defense projects, which was merely 62 in 2002, has today surpassed 750,” Erdoğan said.
The president stressed Türkiye’s total budget for defense projects, which stood at only $5.5 billion in 2002, has reached $75 billion, including the ones in the bidding process.
Erdoğan stressed that behind every product developed in the defense industry lies yearslong efforts, patience, work and financial power.
“This is how each of our UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles) – which stand out all across the world today – and our armored land vehicles, warships, frigates and missiles, as well as other systems, which are greatly admired, have emerged,” he added.
Türkiye has become a supplier country for the defense industry, with its products used by many armies, the president also underlined.